Improvement of Arabidopsis Biomass and Cold, Drought and Salinity Stress Tolerance by Modified Circadian Clock-Associated PSEUDO-RESPONSE REGULATORs

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Abstract

Plant circadian clocks control the timing of a variety of genetic, metabolic and physiological processes. Recent studies revealed a possible molecular mechanism for circadian clock regulation. Arabidopsis thaliana (Arabidopsis) PSEUDO-RESPONSE REGULATOR (PRR) genes, including TIMING OF CAB EXPRESSION 1 (TOC1), encode clock-associated transcriptional repressors that act redundantly. Disruption of multiple PRR genes results in drastic phenotypes, including increased biomass and abiotic stress tolerance, whereas PRR single mutants show subtle phenotypic differences due to genetic redundancy. In this study, we demonstrate that constitutive expression of engineered PRR5 (PRR5-VP), which functions as a transcriptional activator, can increase biomass and abiotic stress tolerance, similar to prr multiple mutants. Concomitant analyses of relative growth rate, flowering time and photosynthetic activity suggested that increased biomass of PRR5-VP plants is mostly due to late flowering, rather than to alterations in photosynthetic activity or growth rate. In addition, genome-wide gene expression profiling revealed that genes related to cold stress and water deprivation responses were up-regulated in PRR5-VP plants. PRR5-VP plants were more resistant to cold, drought and salinity stress than the wild type, whereas ft tsf and gi, well-known late flowering and increased biomass mutants, were not. These findings suggest that attenuation of PRR function by a single transformation of PRR-VP is a valuable method for increasing biomass as well as abiotic stress tolerance in Arabidopsis. Because the PRR gene family is conserved in vascular plants, PRR-VP may regulate biomass and stress responses in many plants, but especially in long-day annual plants.

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